Thousands of people from around the world will converge on Lafayette this weekend for Festival Acadiens et Creoles, and the area will notice the economic and cultural impact of the popular festival that celebrates the region's music and food.

"I think people often miss the fact that we're an economic engine for Lafayette Parish on that particular weekend," said Patrick Mould, vice president of programming and development for Festival Acadiens, held in Girard Park, which is now in its 41st year.

"The hotels love us, the restaurants love us, the gas stations love us," Mould said. "It's all because we bring in people who spend their money here while they're enjoying the festival."

Mould isn't kidding about local businesses loving the festival. According to a 2014 economic impact study, each local festival attendee spends around $370 to entertain their out-of-town guests while visitors spends around $945. In 2013, the festival also generated over $9.5 million for Lafayette Parish.

Also that year, 38 percent of attendees traveled over 500 miles for the festivities. They came from Canada, England, France, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while visitors from South America, Africa and Australia have attended other years.

Recurring guests also helps with the growth of the festival. The majority of guests polled have been to the festival three times or more with 99 percent of festival goers saying at the end of the weekend that they would attend again.

"It's a great depiction of our area," said Ben Berthelot, executive director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. "It features not only our great Cajun and Zydeco music but also great food. It's also an opportunity for us to get people to visit us for the first time. We know that once we can get them here for the first time, they'll come back for repeat visits because of our amazing first impression."

Berthelot said the festival allows for people to explore more places in Acadiana, which furthers the reach of its economic impact. This, Mould says, is by design.

"We intentionally shut down a little early so people will go out and spend money at the restaurants, dance at the honky tonks and enjoy the city," Mould said. "We want them out there in the community enjoying themselves, spending money and making an impact on the city, not just holding them hostage in the park all weekend."

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Business Reporter